Sunday, 29 April 2012

On the Care and Feeding of Muses By Toby Neal

Today I'm welcoming Toby Neal to Flight of the Dragon to talk to us all about nurturing our precious muses. Toby is not a fantasy author, you've busted me there, but hey, fantasy authors have muses too!

Toby Neal was raised on Kauai in Hawaii. She wrote and illustrated her first story at age 5 and has been published in magazines and won several writing contests. After initially majoring in Journalism, she eventually settled on mental health as a career and loves her work, saying, “I’m endlessly fascinated with people’s stories.”

She enjoys many outdoor sports including bodyboarding, scuba diving, beach walking, gardening and hiking. She lives in Hawaii with her family and dogs.

Toby credits her counseling background in adding depth to her characters–from the villains to Lei Texeira, the courageous and vulnerable heroine in the Lei Crime Series.

You can find Toby here at her website. Enjoy!
Your creative Muse is fed and cared for by a rich diet of sensory input, and time taken to fully experience life. 

I woo my Muse by taking periodic, tiny “retreats.” It’s going to seem like cheating when I tell you I live on Maui, but I work a regular job and live a regular life, with work that gets tiring, a mortgage, and exceptionally high gas prices. Still, when I get out in nature, it really is amazing.

Today is an exceptionally clear, warm and gorgeous day at the park on the side of Haleakala. The ocean, glowing blue mystery, merges with the sky in the distance and holds the floating green/purple island of Lanai, and the striated majesty of the West Maui Mountains, draped in cumulus. I really do live in paradise.

I am in my little tent under the trees for an hours-long creativity retreat. The tent is an open container for me, making fragile definition of that which defies boundaries. The vista is so swelling and magnificent I shut my eyes for relief from it, my perception overwhelmed. I am anchored here, pointed out into vast space.
With my eyes shut I hear the singing of the meadow larks, and the rustling of wind in the invasive black wattle, rumble of some far-off construction equipment, the bark of a distant dog.

I smell the slight mustiness of the tent, carelessly bundled away by the kids on their last camping trip, and the faint sweetness of the wattle bloom.

The afternoon clouds are beginning to gather, and cool wind, the same wind that gyrates and swirls the paragliders in bright arcs above me, reaches in and touches my cheek, soft and kind. I feel restfulness creeping over me, the need to sleep that usually comes over me first thing when I arrive for my “date” with my Muse, as if slipping the bonds of my hectic life is so exhausting that the first thing I can do when I’m free is fall asleep- and wake up with my Muse awake within me.

She’s my creative self, and while she doesn’t mind being disciplined and on a schedule, she likes it best when I make time for her, feed her with beauty, nurture her with praise, and present her with the occasional rose.

Do I need to think of her this way? Do I even need a Muse at all? No. But it’s more fun to have one, a useful mental construct. Externalizing and personalizing a source of creativity is a way of removing performance anxiety. (Elizabeth Gilbert explores on her Ted Talk video of 2011, check it out on YouTube.)
Muse or no muse, creativity flows from depth of exposure to sensory input. Let me say that again: creativity flows from depth of exposure to sensory input. 

Without sounds we’ve known, where would music come from? Without images we’ve seen, colors we’ve boggled at, shapes we’ve felt, where would new works of art come from? And, without stories, legends, fairy tales, poetry, and even journal articles, where will original narrative spring from?

New work arises from the bones of old—just as new life arises from a remix of DNA.

With a dearth of exposure, how can new ideas emerge? In a hectic, overstimulated world with too much of one kind of input (like electronics) from whence will rise the next Michelangelo? Without time—time to wander, and putter, and percolate on rich sensory input, who could give birth to genius? 

And by this, I’m not talking about retreating for six months to Esalen in Big Sur, meditating naked—(though that could be fun) I’m talking about walking in nature for awhile, letting the eyes wander where they will, picking out the butterflies trying to fly while they mate (not graceful) and the mynah bird hopping on a roof.

 Breathe deep that smell of moss under a tree, a scent like the underside of a mushroom, cool and slightly sour. 

Listen to rain falling, the parrot next door saying “Pretty bird!” Cars honking. Kids splashing in the neighbor’s pool.

Take a shower, feeling water define every nubbin and hair, watch it purl away between toes. Touch a loved one, really taking in the sensations. Roll around in fresh linens. Aah, touch.

Process all that information from each of your senses. Something will emerge later from what is deeply felt and fully experienced. They say write what you know—and if you aren’t fully occupying your own skin, inhabiting your own environment in a conscious way, ideas and descriptions will be forced, wooden. The Muse is a creature that is wooed rather than forced, and when fed and cared for properly by conscious living, she’s much more liable to come sit beside you and play—because nothing she does feels like work—and what you together write out of the richness of sensory input is going to be quality. 

Try it and see. Write about all those little moments as they happen. Carry a notebook for a day and try to notice, really notice, everything that’s happening. You’ll be surprised by its power—and you’ll have the added benefit of never regretting a moment of your life lost to distraction and never fully experienced.


Thanks, Toby, that was a fascinating insight into muses because I can't say it's something I, for one, ever really think about. 

Toby's latest book, Blood Orchids, is FREE April 28 and 29 and available here. Blood Orchids is currently rated 4.7 stars with 73 reviews! About Blood Orchids:

Lei has overcome a scarred past to make a life for herself as a cop in the sleepy Big Island town of Hilo. On a routine patrol she finds two murdered teenagers—one of whom she’d recently busted. With its echoes of her own past, the murdered girl’s harsh life and tragic death affect Lei deeply. She becomes obsessed—even as the killer is drawn to Lei's intensity, feeding off her vulnerabilities and toying with her sanity.

Despite her obsession with the case and fear that she's being stalked, Lei finds herself falling in love for the first time. Steaming volcanoes, black sand beaches and shrouded fern forests are the backdrop to Lei's quest for answers—and the stalker is closer than she can imagine, as threads of the past tangle in her future. Lei is determined to find the killer—but he knows where to find her first.
I'm entered in the Best Australian Blogs 2012 Competition for both Flight of the Dragon and Somebody Has To Say It. If you like this blog, or Somebody Has To Say It, I'd be eternally grateful if you'd be so good as to stop by and vote for me here.

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Sunday, 22 April 2012

An Evening of Books with Brandon Sanderson

This week I attended a book signing by Brandon Sanderson, author of the Mistborn Trilogy and the Stormlight Archives, and the man responsible for completing the late Robert Jordan’s legacy, the Wheel of Time. 

In the course of the evening he chose to share some of his writing process with us. I felt like I should have been taking notes and didn’t have anything to do it with! So if I’ve forgotten anything, or get something wrong, I do apologise to Brandon, who was so totally cool and awesome that he was still signing books at 10pm when I left and he’d been going for two and a half hours!

First off, how many drafts do you think you should do of your novel? I know some people think they can publish a first, second or third draft. Brandon talked us through some of his drafts:
  • Version 1 – This is the absolute first cut. Brandon tends to write each character arc from start to end independently, so at the end of this process the different points of view are not woven together.;
  • Version 2 – This is where the storylines are woven together, revisions done to make them fit and to correct continuity errors;
  • Version 3 – Brandon’s own line edit, where he focuses on sentence structure and polishing the prose. It then goes to his editor for his or her line edit;
  • Version 4 – After the line edit by his editor, it comes back to Brandon. Version 4 is working through the line edit and making corrections line by line;
  • Version 5 – this is beg revisions the editor asked for – new scenes and the like which have to be written from scratch. Then it goes back to the editor again.
It certainly made me feel better about the four versions I worked my way through on Deathhawk’s Betrayal last year. Out of curiosity, I asked him how many drafts he does total. The answer was a staggering twelve drafts for a Wheel of Time book (the series is so monstrous the extra drafts are required for consistency) and eight drafts for his own works. So if you think one, two, or even three drafts is enough – think again!

It's also worth noting that his drafts come back from his editor covered in red scribbles - this is always going to happen. If you don't get your work back from an editor covered in scribbles, the editor is not doing their job.Even if you got most everything else right, an editor will look for passive language, the chance to use stronger verbs, and to improve specificity e.g. oak door instead of wooden door.

I know there are those out there who expect an editor to tell them how wonderful they are and not change anything, but I'm sorry, it's never going to happen. If this is really how you feel, you might like to consider another career. Receiving feedback can always be a very demoralising experience, and Brandon admitted it is for him as well, but it's part and parcel of the job and it's never going to change, no matter how successful you are. Your job is to write. The editor's job is to scribble all over your baby.

Interestingly enough, Brandon said one of his weak areas is his prose. He doesn’t have naturally beautiful prose, which I found completely amazing. While being lectured about editing and prose, I happened to be reading the Stormlight Archives and noticed Brandon’s style is very effective. I asked my editor and she said yes, he is virtually technically perfect. Apparently, though, that’s something he has to work hard at! So there is hope for me yet. 

One of his stronger points is characterisation and he says he often has to dial back the characterisation. I think the lesson here is balance, people! Work on your weaknesses and don’t let your strengths get so out of hand they take over. Too much of a good thing is bad. Everything in moderation!

Lastly, if you are a Wheel of Time fan, Brandon told us a little story about the death of Asmodean at the end of the Fires of Heaven. If you don't know (and I didn't) the killer is revealed in the glossary (of all places) of The Towers of Midnight. I'm not going to tell you under which entry, but I'll wait while you check *taps foot impatiently*. If you really can't find it, let me know.

Anyway, the reason behind putting it in the glossary is that when Robert Jordan's notes were handed over to Brandon Sanderson, there was a post-it note stuck to one page which said simply 'X killed Asmodean'. No how, or why, just the name of the killer. Because all these other details are lost with Robert Jordan, Harriet McDougal (Robert Jordan's widow and editor) decided the details would only be disclosed in the glossary. Brandon did try to slip it into a scene but it was removed during editing.

I’m sure there were other pearls of wisdom but I’m afraid for the moment they have escaped me. 

I should also mention how cool Brandon is – Tuesday night he was free and he issued a Twitter invitation for people to go and play ‘Magic’ with him. Apparently that’s a card game. I would have gone along if I had any clue how to play, but my friend was most impressed he gave out his hotel like that. Definite cool points. 

Lastly a shout-out to @goddessmallie, whom I had the pleasure of meeting at the book signing. We waited 2.5 hours to have our books signed, with no phone reception, and therefore no Twitter I might add (AARGH!!!), and I'm sure we kept each other sane. 

I'm entered in the Best Australian Blogs 2012 Competition for both Flight of the Dragon and Somebody Has To Say It. If you like this blog, or Somebody Has To Say It, I'd be eternally grateful if you'd be so good as to stop by and vote for me here.

If you enjoyed this post, please feel free to check out my previous posts if you haven't already. If you're finding yourself here often, you might like to join as a member, sign up to the blog through RSS or email, or subscribe to my newsletter.

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Sunday, 15 April 2012

Dark Decisions - Part 2 (Fiction)

Originally featured on Somebody Has To Say It for the A - Z Blogging Challenge, here is Part 2 of Dark Decisions for those who missed it the first time. If you haven't already read Part 1 (or Parts 1 and 2 on Somebody Has To Say It) you can find it here

I'm entered in the Best Australian Blogs 2012 Competition for both Flight of the Dragon and Somebody Has To Say It. Don't forget to stop by and vote for me here

Enjoy the conclusion to this story.

Two figures emerged, silhouetted against the nightmarish backdrop. They were alone, their prisoner already delivered. What was done with them? The guards turned aside before reaching Drada and Gan, swallowed by the wall as they stepped through a doorway out of sight. The echo of boots striking stairs floated into the cavern. Drada’s breath whooshed from him. Behind, Gan prodded him forward. 

Sweat covered Drada’s palms. The heat of the cavern smothered him, but it wasn’t the reason he perspired. His slid slippery fingers into the pouch and fingered the cold, chain links. Can I do this?

The red glow intensified and Drada stepped past a wall and into a smaller cavern bordering the edge of the legendary magma lake. He slammed to a halt so hard Gan stumbled into his back, pushing him forward two more steps towards the figure beside the lake. 

The man turned, his face a landscape of shadows and hellish red light leeching his features of all other colour. ‘Father?’

Stunned surprise reverberated through his voice, but Drada barely noticed, his eyes locked to the crude, wooden bench behind Phaeton. A man lay there, strapped facedown to expose the bare flesh of his back. Thick, black lines marked out a space near his kidneys. A low groan issued from the shadowy prisoner. 

Drada dragged his eyes away from the shackled prisoner to his son’s shadowed face. ‘Phaeton?’ He heard the horror in his own voice; so did his son. Even in the red glow, he saw his son’s face harden.

‘You can’t understand, but I’m saving people. Did you know it’s possible to transfer one person’s organs to others? This man’s kidneys will save two other men, with the help of my sorcery. Two, productive lives, at the expense of what? One murderer?’

Drada shook his head. His knees tried to buckle; instead he forced himself forward a few steps. His fingers clenched around the cold chain. ‘What would your mother say?’

Phaeton stiffened. His eyes flickered over Drada’s shoulder. ‘I should have known it was you, Gan. Have you brought my father to kill me?’

Drada silenced Gan with one lifted finger. The heat of the magma lake beat at his exposed face and arms. ‘It nearly killed your mother when she heard the charges brought against you. What do you think it would do if I were to tell her I’d killed you?’ With exaggerated care, he lifted his sword free of his scabbard and dropped it. The clang of metal striking stone reverberated painfully off the cavern walls. Phaeton’s mouth dropped open, hastily closed. 

‘No?’ Phaeton sneered, a poor attempt to cover his surprise. ‘And yet violence was ever your first resort.’

Drada spread his arms wide, the fine gold of the chain concealed in his hand. The links were so tiny the chain formed a ball barely large enough to fill his palm. ‘Won’t you reconsider? Mere mathematics is not enough to justify killing a man.’ He shuffled a few steps closer. Just a few more moments, a few more steps.
There was no hesitation in Phaeton. His chin lifted; arrogant, insolent. ‘You think I haven’t given this due consideration?’ He pointed a long finger. ‘That’s far enough, father. Even without your sword, I don’t trust you.’

‘Your mother-‘

‘I don’t want to hear about my mother!’ The scream bounced off the stone of the cavern. Power sparked dangerously around Phaeton’s clenched fists.

Sweat covered Drada’s palms; the fine chain slipped. Am I close enough? He chanced another step. A blast of red light blew a chunk out of a stalactite to his left. He threw himself aside, Phaeton’s scream of rage echoing in his ears. His breath whooshed out of him as he hit the ground. The chain, so fine it was almost invisible, slithered across the stone floor and disappeared into the shadows. Drada skittered after it, sliding on his belly, pushing with his booted feet. Another blast of red light sent chunks of stone and dust raining down on his head. Behind him, Gan called hoarsely. More red light flashed in the sergeant’s direction.  

Drada coughed, choking on the fine dust. His hands fumbled along the stone floor, feeling for what his eyes couldn’t see in the red shadows. Dust ruined his sense of touch and the chain so fine it was indistinguishable among the ruins of stone. Another explosion of red light elicited a glint of gold before stone fragments showered down on him. A piece of shrapnel burrowed its way into his flesh. White agony exploded in his shoulder. Choking back a cry of pain, he lunged for the stray gleam of gold. Behind, the stone floor exploded.  

His hand closed on a fistful of dust and stone fragments. Lifting the fist, he saw the links of the chain trail from his grip like stardust. He seized it with the other hand, shaking out its near invisible length. More stone exploded as he rolled onto his back. 

‘Stay still, damn you!’ Phaeton stood with his fists raised. They glowed with burning, red light so bright it seared Drada’s eyes. He lurched to one knee. Swinging the chain, he squinted into the red inferno and tossed the chain at the figure outlined against the flaming sorcery. 

The near-invisible chain ignited with golden light. It carved its way through the malevolent, red glow, flying with the weight of a much heavier chain. It bounced off Phaeton’s shoulder, opening a line of gold fire in his flesh. Phaeton screamed. The sorcerous light at his fists flickered and died. Drada hauled in the length of chain, thick fingers fumbling with the fine gold. Red energy exploded into the stalactite beside his head. A flying stone fragment opened a line of fire on his cheek. The chain’s weight feather-light in his left hand, he flung it again. 

The length of the chain, aflame with gold light, snaked out. It flew true, wrapping around Phaeton before he could fire another bolt of energy. 

The red light winked out. The sorcerer’s howl reverberated off the stone. On his knees, blood dripping down his face, Drada dropped his head and wept. 

Phaeton spun, nearly losing his balance with his arms pinned to his sides. The golden fire dimmed to a dull glow, but it stood out like blazing fire in the darkness of the cavern. Before he’d taken three steps, Gan barrelled out of the darkness and flung himself on Phaeton. The two men crashed to the ground, rolling in a tangle of limbs. Through it all, the impossibly fragile length of chain glowed steadily gold, whole and unbroken. 

Gan hauled the sorcerer to his feet. ‘You won’t be going anywhere for a long time, pup.’ He shook Phaeton for emphasis. ‘You broke your mother’s heart. And your father…’

Drada climbed to his feet with slow, heavy steps. A hole opened in his heart where once there’d been a son. 

Phaeton lunged forward in Gan’s grip. ‘To hell with you, and mother! You should have just killed me.’ Vitriol dripped from every word. 

‘Killing you would have been easier for both of us, but you don’t deserve easy.’ Drada swallowed hard. ‘Phaeton, son of Drada, you are under arrest for crimes against the people, unspeakable acts of sorcery and murder most vile. You will go from here to face trial by your sorcerous peers. It will be for them to decide if you will live and, if you do, if you will ever be permitted to wield sorcery again.’

The words fell hard and heavy into the silence, like crypt doors slamming. It lasted a moment only, before Phaeton screamed and threw himself against Gan’s rock-like grip. 

Drada turned his back. It was done. Tomorrow had come. The day after tomorrow would be brighter. 

If you enjoyed this post, please feel free to check out my previous posts if you haven't already. If you're finding yourself here often, you might like to join as a member, sign up to the blog through RSS or email, or subscribe to my newsletter.
Don't forget to share the love and spread the word on Twitter, Facebook or StumbleUpon (or other social networking site of your choice) if you know other people who might also enjoy this.
Thanks for stopping by and visiting with us!

Author's Note: Due to the time constraints of the A to Z Challenge, this piece of fiction has not undergone my usual rigorous editing process and is essentially a first draft. 

Sunday, 8 April 2012

Dark Decisions (Part 1) - Fiction

Apart from Six Sentence Sunday, I don't usually post fiction on my blog. I made an exception in the A to Z Blogging Challenge, and so far this month I have posted the first half of a short story. I have chosen to repeat it here for those of you who missed it. 

If you're interested in following my progress on the A to Z Blogging Challenge, you can find it on Somebody Has To Say It.

The second part of this story will be posted here next Sunday, or on Somebody Has To Say It throughout the coming week. 


A siren screeched in the bowels of the prison. Colonel Drada furrowed his aching forehead against the sound. The prison guard escorting him looked to the steel door, a few yards ahead, and back towards the stairs spiralling down into the dungeon depths. 

 ‘You can find your way out, sir? I really should…’ The guard glanced towards the stairs again and shuffled his feet.

 Drada flicked thick-knuckled fingers. ‘Go, man. The door’s right there and I’ve been this way dozens of times. I’m sure I’ll be fine.’

The guard snapped off a hasty salute and disappeared into the dank recesses of the dungeon. The flames of the sparse torches flickered in the breeze of his passing. 

The siren wailed unabated in the distance. Drada combed fingers through greying black hair and stepped towards the door.
‘Psst!’ A hand beckoned from a door to his left, cracked barely wide enough to reveal a bloodshot blue eye. The crack widened, exposing a hooked nose and creased face.  

Drada hesitated. One finger flicked the gold braid on the opposite sleeve. Noticing, he forced both hands to his sides, jerking the jacket of his uniform straight and squaring his shoulders militantly. ‘Gan? Sergeant Gan?’

‘Shhh! Don’t be telling everyone I’m here.’

‘I haven’t seen you in months.’

‘We’re not allowed to see anyone.’ The eye rolled wildly in each direction. 

Drada glanced up and down the hall; there was no one to see.  ‘Not allowed?’ Drawn on by fascination, he drifted closer to the door and its eye. ‘By whom? What’s the siren?’

Gan swung the door open wider. He wore chain mail over the prison guard uniform, but no weapon hung from his belt. ‘Keep your voice down. It’s the escaped prisoner alert.’ The sergeant waved his hands as Drada reached for his sword. ‘There’s no escaped prisoner. I set it off to get you alone.’  He pulled Drada through the door, ignoring the colonel’s raised eyebrows. Closing the door, he leaned against the wood, barrel chest rising and falling rapidly. In another man, Drada would have said it was panic, but Gan didn’t panic. Drada looked closer. Gan’s skin was grey with exhaustion, his hair lank and tangled; more white now than iron-grey. He had aged years in the months since Drada saw him last. 

‘What’s going on?’ Drada’s voice firmed, the voice of a colonel expecting an answer and no longer that of a man talking to a long-absent friend. In the distance, the siren cut off mid-shriek. Drada shivered in the sudden, ominous silence. 

‘People are disappearing. Prisoners, mostly. Some guards. The ones who ask the wrong questions.’ Gan’s blue eyes flickered left, right, and left again. They were in a long, unlit service tunnel. Dust and debris littered the floor. It was dark, except for a solitary candle fixed in a puddle of melted wax on the floor. ‘Amlay. Sawsey. Randlin.’ He rattled off a list of prisoners, some Drada knew, some he didn’t. 

‘Sawsey was transferred. I signed the papers myself.’

‘Of course, there has to be a legitimate reason for absent prisoners. But he didn’t get on the wagon; I was there. There’ll be an ‘accident’ en route to the new prison, a body provided, and he’ll be marked down as dead on arrival. He might be dead, but it weren’t en route.’

Drada’s mouth worked but no words came. Gan was a stalwart soldier, a man formerly of his own command, reliable to a fault, but this… If it was true, it must encompass a huge number of people, not only here, but on the transport wagons, in other cities... too many to tally. ‘This is a lot to take in.’

‘You have to believe me!’ Gan thrust his face into Drada’s, his breath hot on the colonel’s skin. ‘I can show you. I know where the prisoners go.  I know what they do with them.’ A shudder wracked his big frame, and a haunted look flashed through his eyes. ‘I wish to the gods I didn’t.’ 

Drada’s thoughts raced. ‘You set off the alert. You planned this. You planned me. Why me?’  Beneath the thick, dark wool of his coat, goosebumps ran down his arms. 

Gan’s eyes darted away, dark with the shadow of memories. ‘I know what they do with the prisoners,' he repeated. His words sounded as though they were dragged from him. ‘They’re taken to a sorcerer.’

Drada’s breath caught. His chest felt as if it were crushed until he couldn’t breathe. ‘A… sorcerer?’ 

Gan hunched impressive shoulders, appearing small despite his bulk. ‘Yeah.’ Blue eyes held Drada’s grey ones, but the sergeant looked like he’d rather be elsewhere. ‘You still got that chain?’

The colonel’s hand dropped to his belt pouch. ‘It’s…’ His throat seized on his son’s name. ‘It’s for Phaeton.’

‘I know.’

Drada’s mouth worked soundlessly. Gan’s face drooped in a frown and he patted the colonel’s shoulder awkwardly. Drada clutched the pouch and its precious cargo. He’d known this day would come, but it had always been tomorrow. Tomorrow didn’t need thinking about. Everyone knew tomorrow never came. 

‘You’re sure?’ Drada hadn’t seen his son for nearly three years, not since charges were brought for  practising illegal, experimental sorcery on humans. 

‘I was virtually an uncle to that boy, Drada. I’m sure it’s him.’

Drada trembled, battered by a hurricane of emotion. When the storm passed, he found himself leaning against the wall and gasping for breath. Gan offered a hand, but Drada brushed him aside. His hand switched between the hilt of his sword and the pouch. Which? Neither option bore contemplation. One would put an end to it now, one would pass responsibility to others. One would offer irrevocable finality, the other the possibility of no closure at all. Neither should be for a father to execute. 

‘Where?’ His voice rasped, so hoarse it was barely audible over the stamp of his boots on the prison’s bare stone floor. 

Grabbing the candle, Gan hurried to catch up, his mail jingling. ‘Phaeton?’

‘Who else?’

Gan waved his hands to signal his helplessness. ‘The prison warden? The lord governor?’ His voice hushed. ‘Duke Alcon? Many are involved, you could want…’ He trailed off under the baleful, grey, glare. ‘This way.’

They took a narrow stairwell, spiralling deep underground. Drada counted the floors. They passed the prison’s upper levels and into the lower, forgotten levels; levels the king had ordered bricked up, levels heavy with the dark secrets of the past. He saw the broken brickwork where sealed doorways had burst asunder. No man with a hammer had wrought that damage. The edges of the bricks gleamed, melted and glassy in the weak candle flame; evidence a sorcerer had been this way.

They trod through the darkness of the horrific past, and deeper into ancient history; a time of whispered fear and half-formed legends. Finally, the stairs spilled out deep in the bowels of the prison. This was a place Drada had never stood, not even before the king’s edict. The walls here were rough, unformed by human hands. He stared into a vast cavern, stalactites and stalagmites spearing the empty space. In the distance, a red glow burned. Rumour spoke of a lake of magma, fuelling the worst and darkest of the ancient sorceries. Drada’s gut clenched. 

Voices echoed out of the glowing darkness, distorted and twisted by the confining stone. It was impossible to tell how many men or where. Drada shrank backwards into the cold, rough wall.

Extinguishing the candle, Gan pushed him forward. ‘Prison guards,’ he whispered. ‘Making a delivery.’ He nudged Drada into a shallow hollow in the wall. 

Drada pressed himself hard against the stone, but the depression was too shallow to offer any real cover. His heart thudded inside his ribcage as the voices drew nearer. Gan dug his fingers into Drada’s arm. He froze. Sweat trickled down his nose as together they peered into the red shadows.

Don't forget to check back next Sunday for Part 2. 

If you enjoyed this post, please feel free to check out my previous posts if you haven't already. If you're finding yourself here often, you might like to join as a member, sign up to the blog through RSS or email, or subscribe to my newsletter.

Don't forget to share the love and spread the word on Twitter, Facebook or StumbleUpon (or other social networking site of your choice) if you know other people who might also enjoy this.

Thanks for stopping by and visiting with us!

Author's Note: Due to the time constraints of the A to Z Challenge, this piece of fiction has not undergone my usual rigorous editing process and is essentially a first draft. 

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